WASHINGTON (Oct. 13)
Most of the support for Israel from the evangelical Christian community is not based on theological reasons, according to a new poll.
More than half of evangelicals say they support Israel because it is a democracy and an important ally of the United States in the war against terrorism, according to a survey by Stand for Israel, a project of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
The group is a strong backer of the evangelical-Jewish alliance.
The release of the poll came just days before approximately 5,000 people attended a Christian Solidarity with Israel rally last Friday in Washington.
Thirty-five percent of evangelicals support Israel for theological reasons, the poll said. The poll, which showed continued Jewish skepticism about evangelical support, also showed high levels of support for Israel among Catholics and Protestants.
But the picture of the evangelical Christian community was muddied last week, when an evangelical association affirmed Jewish conversions.
In response to an August report from U.S. Roman Catholic bishops that opposes efforts to target Jews for conversion, the World Evangelical Alliance issued a statement saying they have a right to share Christianity with Jews.
In a statement that reaffirmed a 1989 declaration defending Jewish evangelism, the statement defends such evangelism and denies that “any person can enjoy God’s favor apart from the mediation of Jesus Christ.”
The statement also decries anti-Semitism and says that Christian churches have “been much to blame for tolerating and encouraging it.”
The alliance represents 120 national and regional church fellowships and 75 nondenominational ministries.
The Stand for Israel poll did show continued Jewish skepticism of evangelical support but despite these concerns Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the fellowship’s founder and president, pronounced Jewish fears of evangelicals “bogus.”
“Hopefully this poll will change perceptions,” he said.
Eckstein is also pleasantly surprised by levels of support for Israel above 50 percent from the Catholic and Protestant communities.
“It’s important for American Jews to continue to reach out to Catholic and Protestants,” Eckstein said, acknowledging the general support from mainstream Christians as well.
Other highlights of the poll include:
aa.. Almost two-thirds of evangelical Christians say they support Israeli actions against Palestinian terrorism, compared with 54 percent of the general population.
ab.. While 67 percent of evangelicals believe they share the same viewpoint as Jews when it comes to Israel, only 49 percent of Jews indicate they believe their viewpoint is similar to evangelicals.
ac.. Fifty-three percent of Jews agree evangelical Christians are strong supporters of Israel.
ad.. At last Friday’s rally in Washington, Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson and the minority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, were among the evangelical Christian and conservative political leaders who proclaimed their support for Israel, according to the Washington Jewish Week.
ae.. Robertson was one of a number of speakers who emphasized the biblical connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
af.. He added that “Palestine has been occupied by Yasser Arafat and his thugs,” and said that other than Jews themselves, evangelical Christians provide the “strongest support for Israel.”
ag.. DeLay said that when he visited the Jewish state, “I didn’t see any occupied territory. What I saw was Israel.”